RIP London Rippers… My Experience at a Rippers Game

Written By:  •  Friday, July 27, 2012

Photo Chris Creamer/Kristen Meyer SportsLogos.Net

Well… that was fast.

The London Rippers, the oft-controversial Frontier League baseball team who came into the City of London, Ontario riding a wave of public uproar and media interest is gone, just as quickly as it came.

Claims of unpaid wages and rent seems to be the leading cause of the sudden demise of the Rippers, just two months removed from their opening game.  The Frontier League plans on continuing their schedule by way of a team playing nothing but road games the rest of the way, the “Road Warriors” is the name they will adopt.

The offensive graphic - did this logo kill a ballclub?

Everyone’s free to have their own opinion about the name and branding the team adopted; but it got people talking didn’t it?

How often is a minor league baseball team out of London, Ontario, Canada going to make headlines in the United States?  Baseball had failed in London several times before, so team president David Martin and his team of sports marketers had to try something different, anything, to get the attention of the public, and he was successful at least in that regard, you cannot argue that.

One thing about how Martin and his team handled the controversy that I didn’t like was his skirting of reality.  Instead he invented elaborate stories explaining how it’s not Jack the Ripper at all, it’s just a coincidence.  Despite the city being named London (where Jack the Ripper did his deeds), the team named “Rippers”, and their team mascot being named “Jack”.

"Not" Jack the Ripper... but a guy looking like him named "Jack" on a "Jack of Diamonds" playing card representing a team named the London Rippers

What Martin should have done right from the start was say something along the lines of, “Yeah it’s Jack the Ripper, but that was over 100 years ago – let’s move on already” or “How about those Minnesota Vikings?”

But the team still ultimately failed… fast.

I was invited down to London to check out the inaugural home game of the London Rippers, and I was treated quite well to be honest.  A free pair of front row seats behind home plate, doesn’t get much better than that… but at the game I noticed something right away, the controversial “Jack the Ripper” logo was nowhere to be seen on stadium signage.

Photo Chris Creamer/Kristen Meyer SportsLogos.Net

This logo featuring a dog instead of "Jack" was seen everywhere in-stadium, "Jack" was nowhere to be found

For a team that went so far out of its way to push forward with this brand despite outcries from the public I found it awfully strange they would suddenly do a 180 and cave into their opponents. Jack was gone, in his place was an angry looking dog mascot ripping the cover off a baseball (ripping the cover off, London Rippers, get it?).

After the game I asked a member of their front office what the deal was… what I was told surprised me.

“The City of London won’t let us put up Jack in the stadium”, said the employee… “He has a weapon, he’s holding a baseball bat,  right?”

It’s one of those explanations that’s too unbelievable to be true, but then again when dealing with members of a city council it’s just the type of lame reason you’d expect.

I also wondered if they noticed the new dog logo was holding a baseball bat as well.

Photo Chris Creamer/Kristen Meyer SportsLogos.Net

Fun things for the kids around the stadium...

The team faced it’s obstacles, presumably because of the brand…

Beer sales were not allowed in the park, either due once again to city council or due to the other ball club that uses the ballpark controlling liquor sales at the venue – depends on who you ask.

Local groups, churches, and schools were weary of supporting a team with such an offensive name and brand, scaring off one of the biggest sources of tickets for small-town ball clubs… one could also logically conclude that if selling tickets to groups was tricky then securing sponsors would be even more difficult.

“People were telling us we shouldn’t be promoting rape, saying we should go get raped ourselves. Stuff like that.” - Former team intern April Whitzman told Metro News London

Ouch.

So whatever the reason, the team is gone, and that’s a shame… especially if it’s due to the brand and brand alone.

My experience seeing a London Rippers game was ultimately a positive one, although there were some hiccups…

Food and merchandise stands took cash only, absolutely unacceptable in this day and age.  An ATM machine was made available, however she was broken and proved useless.  During my search for cash I talked with several game day employees, many of whom I had to end up teaching that there even was an ATM in-stadium and that nobody accepted plastic payment.  After one inning as a fan I was more trained than most Rippers/Labatt Park staff members.

Play had to be stopped on more than one occasion because the PA announcer would randomly announce the batter while the pitcher was in his wind-up… sometimes even throwing in horrible jokes.  A horrible joke is tolerable for a chuckle now and then; when it’s interrupting the game it’s an extreme annoyance. Remember, ultimately fans are paying to watch the game – don’t ever take away from the game.

Photo Chris Creamer/Kristen Meyer SportsLogos.Net

Look we're Canadian... see? Canada! What's a London Ripper? Go Maple Leafs! Red and white foreverrrrr!

The uniforms were abysmal. Seriously.  What they unveiled along with the team logo was nice, I don’t know why they weren’t wearing those, but all red jersey, all red pants, and random maple leaves plastered all over… why?

Bloodclot looking players aside… C’mon already! We know we are in Canada, we’re not stupid.  Can we get a Canadian team out there that doesn’t go crazy with the patriotism?  You’re the London Rippers, you’re not the Canada Maple Leafs, if you wanted to play Captain Canuck then adopt an appropriate name for the club.

So yes, there were issues, but it was opening day — it happens.

On the plus side, the level of play I saw, while not Major League, was still enjoyable.  Ticket prices were more than reasonable, the stadium was nice and had some games set up for the kiddies, they sold carnival food at one stand which was fun and probably was tasty.  Fans were invited onto the field to meet players following the game and run the bases.

Assuming those issues mentioned earlier were cleared up I would have purchased season tickets had I lived closer to the area (and even if they weren’t I probably would have anyways, let’s be honest)

Photo Chris Creamer/Kristen Meyer SportsLogos.Net

Sporting my London Rippers t-shirt post game on the field

I managed to find some cash and pick up some merchandise before the game ended, very glad I did now as obviously it’s just not available anymore.

The Rippers will live forever in the Frontier League’s “Teams of the Past” section of SportsLogos.Net, as a bullet-point in future news articles next to the Tigers, Werewolves, and Monarchs whenever London gets its next ball team, and in 25 different Bleacher Report’s “Most Controversial Team Logos” slideshows.

So long to the London Rippers.

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Chris Creamer

Chris Creamer is the founder of SportsLogos.Net and has been maintaining it since June 1997. You can follow him on Twitter at @sportslogosnet or contact him via email at ccreamer@sportslogos.net

  • http://ofclitterbox.wordpress.com/ Mike Nellis

    Nice article, Chris. One of the few out there that don’t take a biased approach for or against the Rippers. I personally find it too bad that the people London chose to not support them.. they’re the only ones that they have to blame on this one.

    Anyone trying to tell you that the a pro sports team left because 50-70 people were upset with the branding of it need to have another look at the situation in my opinion.

    I wish that Martin and the other owner(s) tried an Ontario city other than London for pro baseball.

  • http://www.mw32.com MonkeyWrench32

    How about those loudmouths down the first base line at that game?

    I was one of them. :P

    • Jason

      The jokes…oh god…the jokes were so so bad. I was looking forward to going to another game at Labatt Park but I guess it will have to wait. Paying to watch Intercounty ball just seems wrong.

  • GK

    This was a very well written article but some people should get there facts straight before commenting/writing. I am not suprised that the Rippers failed, coming from someone who lives in London, Ontario. London already had a baseball team, the London Majors in the Intercounty League that do well and is well supported by Londoners. Not to mention the controversy over the logo, there was just not enough people to support two minor league baseball teams.

    • http://sportslogos.net Kristen Meyer

      I totally agree. To get fans to follow the team they not only had to get them out there but they had to give them a really great experience at the ballpark and it just wasn’t happening. Too bad.

    • Chris Creamer

      Thanks for the comments… I did mention the Majors and never blamed the quality of ball fans in London – I should have mentioned the possibility of a watered down market (two teams) as one of the reasons though.

  • http://sportslogos.net Kristen Meyer

    My experience with the Rippers has always been extremely positive. Clearly the people in charge of marketing this team to a broader audience succeeded. And I will admit, sometimes I just wished that they would stand up for themselves and admit to basing the character on Jack the Ripper…..I mean, it was more than obvious and it would have gone a long way in gaining trust from potential fans. But to see them “cave” to City Council by downplaying the marketing that they so fervently championed before the season started, really stuck in my craw. I liked the design, the character and I envisioned some great opportunities for merchandising and expanding the brand. What saddens me most is that some really enthusiastic people who worked hard to foster a team in London are now out of a job and that the City of London couldn’t get behind them. It’s hard not to view the interference of City council as a form of sabotage (there was evidence of it everywhere on opening night) but coming from a marketing background, I know what it’s like dealing with city councils…it’s complete bureaucratic nonsense. I wish them all luck in their future endeavours…..maybe one day they’ll give it another shot!

  • Matt Marczel

    That’s a shame! I really like the team’s branding. All of their marks were top notch. I’m quite taken aback by how quickly this franchise fizzled.

  • Nathan

    A guy from where I live pitches for London

  • Jeff L

    Good article on the demise of the Rippers, but I’ll add a few more points why the Rippers failed in London. First, the team had a losing record and were not playing well. London likes winners – i.e. the Knights, the Mustangs and the Majors. An excellent example is the Knights. They were not well supported until the Hunter brothers took over and made them into an annual contender. Now the JLC is consistently sold out for Knights games. Second, the London media outlets provided very little coverage. The London television station would mention the score of that day’s Ripper game/loss (and losing streak) but nothing further. No video highlights, no names of players, etc. I don’t recall any scores mentioned on the London radio stations. And yes, the London television station does show video hightlights of the Majors games. Third, being the new party using Labatt Park the Rippers expected the Majors to step aside for them. What they should have done is worked with the Majors to benefit both teams. The Majors have done well the past few years and are looked favourably within the community. Instead of putting down the Majors as non-professional baseball, the Rippers could have learned from the Majors. A good example of this is the beer licence fiasco and the Rippers not doing their homework on this matter. Lastly, yea there was probably some ill feelings from London city hall towards the Rippers. But at the end of the day, they own Labatt Park and to gain their support and cooperation it’s better to work with them rather than against them. I can’t comment if the City of London caused interference for the Rippers but they sure did not go over and above to help them out.

  • Mark

    The team name had little to no effect on the people of London supporting or not-supporting this team. London has proven it just doesn’t care about baseball. Nobody was offended by the “Werewolves” and all they did was win the league championship in their first season. A year later, they were gone because nobody put their backside in a seat at “Canada’s Favourite Ballpark”. It’s a crying shame that a city who supports it’s London Knights and London Lightning, and heck even the London Nationals, refuses to go to the oldest functioning ball park in the world to watch a game.

    As a Londoner, I’m embarrassed by everything that happened with the Rippers. As a ball fan, I hope someone else takes the risk and attempts to succeed with a similar venture in this city, but at the same time I hope Londoners do not continue to be spoiled with a luxury they don’t support. It’s a backwards way of looking at it, but it’s true.

  • http://www.flynnagain.com Keith Flynn

    Hi Chris
    Love your article on the Rippers. I echo a lot of your observations. To Paraphrase Jerry Garcia ” What a (short) strange trip its been” and I had a front row seat on the trip from the start (the Ripper design, not the concept, was one of mine (original press release uniforms as well). Bottom line, the Rippers ownership group worked hard to make this boat float but there were too many water mines dropped near the Thames for them to dart around.

    For me the home opener was special. It was a nice night for baseball in a perfect park to take in a game. Being from the London area (Thamesford) I was able to take my dad to the game. He talked about the hey-day of Labatt Park in the early 60′s when you had to come early to get a seat. There is always something special about going to a live event (HD does giveth but also does taketh away). In the end, A Canadian pitcher won the home opener in a exciting game. Further, It would have been great to meet up with you had I know you were going to be there.

    p.s. Please cut me some slack on the “angry looking dog mascot ripping the cover off a baseball (ripping the cover off, London Rippers, get it?” It was created on a Saturday while looking after my “very active” young kids. Not an easy task:)

  • Georges

    Well, that was a pretty quick exit. Honestly, I didn’t think it was the original logos that killed the team. Just the bottom line that did them in.

  • http://twitter.com/FletchTopper Fletcher Keel

    For some reason, I really like the Logo the Rippers had. I hope at some point their hats become available again…I’d love to get one.

  • BigBubba

    Looking forward to buying my grandkids their very own Hamilton Luka Magnottas swag later this century.

  • RippersFan

    “Play had to be stopped on more than one occasion because the PA announcer would randomly announce the batter while the pitcher was in his wind-up” – This happened once during the home opener, and never again. So I assume you never went to more than that one game?

  • http://evansvillerail.blogspot.com Jordan

    I loved the teams name. Why do feminist insist on ruining everything?

  • ingmar66

    Too bad the Rippers did not succeed. I guess London is more of a hockey town.

    • Tim D.

      ^this guy gets it! GO KNIGHTS GO!

  • Joel Clarke

    Great read that was, what a story and hounestly a sad sad story…

    Points

    “Minnesota Vikings” “Pittsburg Pirates” “Tampa Bay Buccaneers” Oakland Raider” all derive from persons who are historicly know for brutal and savage acts of violence which lead to deaths of foe’s and raping of thier woman. All these actions stem from one thing which to my knowlage 2 teams have named themselfs after. The”Manchester United Red Devils” and the “New Jersey Devils” since the Devil is the root of all evil and bad things in this world.

    Personally i think its a joke and hypocritical of the people of London Ontario to even before the team takes the field cause a boycot (so to speak) of a brand when im sure the people who created a fuss have some ties to the media which glorify rapes and killings on the evening news daily. I love the name and logo of the team and wish i could have gotten a shirt or a jersey but only found out about the team thru this artical. The idea of the mascot and the “Jack of diamonds” is simply marketing genious and i hope the guys in charge kick themselfs daily for being cowards and not standing up for the brand. London Ontario you will never be a Toronto or a major Canadian city and will be lucky to have anything other then the London Knights with this approch to your sports entertainment. A name and a brand such as the London Rippers is somthing that gets people talking about your city and team weather you play good or not on the field and could have been marketed to have a Vancouver guy like me repping your no name team and city on my back simply because im a fan of good tounge and cheek humor. But your small town minds and spineless owner ruined it for ya’ll and now your teams reduced to “The Road Warriors” from parts unknown which is actully patheticly funny, but personally i liked the idea of The London Rippers cause seldom in sports do you see something original.

  • Cuserell

    Hey Chris,

    Longtime fan of the site, saw this post and decided to comment about the Rippers merchandise situation. Have you heard anything out of the area concerning the owners not honoring purchases of merchandise? They announced that they were liquidating merchandise following the folding of the franchise and after letting people buy hats, jerseys, etc for three months, they shut down the website with no response. I looked over on their Facebook page and many have posted that they can’t even get their money back. I’m based in New York, so I don’t know what’s going on with the current situation outside of what I see posted on the ‘net.